St. Sunniva

Date: Wednesday 5 may 2021 - Wednesday 11 Jun 2025 Show map

The first pilgrimage in Norway


People have traveled here for over 1000 years, to experience Norway's first pilgrimage place, with unique cultural heritage from the Viking Age and the Middle Ages. Join a guided boat cruise to the Island of Selja and Selje Monastery.

On the island of Selja, 15 min. from Selje, lie the ruins of Selja monastery, perhaps the oldest monastery in Norway. The monastery tower is still intact. The monastery was built by Benedictine monks in the early 1100s, in memory of St. Sunniva. You can explore this part of Norwegian history on a guided tour during the summer season.

Selja was in 996 the first pilgrimage in the country when King Olav Tryggvason found relics in a cave on the island.
Norway has two male saints, (St.Olav and St.Hallvard) and one female, St.Sunniva, the patron saint of Western Norway. She came ashore on the island of Selja. The St.Sunniva cave, where Sunniva died, is a large cave with traces of the first church, consecrated to the Archangel Michael. From 1068 to 1170 Selja was the diocese for the entire West Coast.

"Acta Sanctorum in Selio" - The story about the saints of Selja
The story tells that the Irish princess Sunniva escaped when her country was overrun by heathens and the new king wanted to marry her. Wind and currents led them north. The boat Sunniva was in stranded in the harbor at the end of the island of Selja. Here they lived in caves. The earl Håkon, who had previously conquered all of Norway, was now on his way to the island after hearing rumors about the uninvited guests. When they saw that Hakon Jarl and his companions were on their way, they went into the cave and prayed to God that he had to "give their souls the everlasting rest and let his angels break down the mountain and bury them under it." The prayers were heard, and the rock came down. A little while later the earl was killed, and the christian king Olav Tryggvason took over. Unexplained things happened at Selja, and more and more stories reached the new king. Finally the king and the bishop went to the the island. They examined the place, and found remnants of the Irish people. After this, they built a church on the island, and the story says that "God has made signs and great deeds to this day" on the island of Selja. In 996, they found the body of Saint Sunniva, whole and unharmed. In 1170 they moved Sunniva to Bjørgvin and put the casket in Kirstkyrkja church.

On the island you will also find:
•    The remains of the first parish church, which was later moved to the mainland.
•    Ruins of the St.Sunniva church, on the same spot where King Olav Tryggvason built one of the first churches in the country.
•    Ruins of the St.Albanus church - a monastery church consecrated to the English saint St.Albanus.

Monastery ruins are currently being used for church ceremonies, for example fairs and weddings. On the south side of the island there have been found several Viking graves and remains of a longhouse (farm building) from the Iron Age.

Guided boat tours to the island of Selja, and Selje Monastery. 

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